Presidential candidate and billionaire Donald Trump is laughing all the way to the bank. Whether he gets the Republican nomination, let alone wins the election in November 2016, Trump is the big winner in the presidential sweepstakes. In the grand style of P.T. Barnum, he’s promoted himself from a questionable real-estate tycoon and wannabe TV-game-show host to the center-ring barker of the electoral circus -– and all-too-many Americans say they’d vote for him.
Weirder things have happened in American politics than a pompous, strutting egomaniac possibly becoming president. Americans have elected slaveholders (Thomas Jefferson), a gay man (James Buchanan), a man incapacitated by a stroke (Woodrow Wilson), a man claiming to have seen a UFO (Jimmy Carter) and a mixed-race African American (Barack Obama), so why not a loudmouthed circus barker?
So, what if by some miracle – or nightmare – Donald Trump was elected president? What policies would he (assuming he had Congress’ support) implement and how would they – as he endlessly chortels — “make American great again”?
The following six likely policies are suggested by Trump’s statements, media pundits’ commentaries and summarized by the website On The Issues. For all “the Donald’s” bluster, one thing’s for sure: Trump could reject anything he’s heretofore proclaimed and adopt a new set of beliefs like a quick costume-changing headliner in a old-time drag show. As a self-proclaimed shoot-from-the-hip media celebrity, nothing is sacred other than his brand.
Policy #1: Round-up Undocumented Immigrants
The centerpiece of the Trump’s presidential program is a mean-spirited, white-nationalist call to forcibly expel some 11.5 non-documented immigrants. As he recently stated in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, “We’re rounding them up in a very humane way; in a very nice way, and they’re going to be happy. … And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But not everything is nice.”
It remains purposefully unspecified how he would accomplish this goal. One thing is clear is that to pull off the mass seizure, detention, trial (if there is a trial) and deportation of such a large number of people, a national security state would have to be imposed.
This re-instituted police state would be similar in scope as that which operated in the wake of 9/11, but with even-more vicious teeth. It would likely resemble World War I suppression of radicals as reflected in the adoption of the Espionage Act (1917), the Sedition Act (1918) and the arrest and deportation of anarchists and others. It would likely create a climate of suspicion not unlike that which suffocated dissent during the Cold War era, with its shaming, blacklists, arrests, imprisonments and executions of “communists.”
A key attribute of Trump’s anti-immigrant policy is to build a wall along the Mexican border to prevent further “illegal” immigration. “We’re going to build a wall and we’re going to create a border. It’s going to be a great wall and it’s not going to be very expensive.” As he’s endlessly reiterated, “Mexico must pay for the wall …”
Trump’s anti-immigration policy would also apply to Syrian refugees. As he recently proclaimed, “If I win, they’re going back.” Clarifying his position, he added: “I hear we want to take in 200,000 Syrians. And they could be – listen, they could be Isis [Islamic State].”
To effectively implement’s Trump’s anti-immigrant policy, the U.S. will need to reinstitute a gloves-off program for both federal and local law enforcement. All the reforms now underway with regard to “over-zealous” – if not racist – policing, like “stop and frisk” and body-mounted cameras – will likely have to be suspended to ensure the great round-up.
Many within the Republican establishment don’t share Trump’s plan. Linda Chavez, the all-American, Hispanic-female Republican who withdraw from her nomination as Bush-II’s Sec. of Labor after it was revealed she hired non-documented immigrants, wrote a scathing critique of the plan in Murdock’s mouthpiece, the New York Post. “The effect of this reduction in US population [through forced removal] would be to reduce GDP by at least $1.6 trillion and to reduce the labor force by more than 11 million workers, according to a study by the conservative American Action Foundation. The result would be a massive contraction in the economy that would make the Great Recession we’ve just experienced look mild in comparison.” She also noted that plan’s implementation would come with a $400 billion to $600 billion price tag.
Policy #2: Cut Taxes
Donald Trump sometimes sounds like socialist Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in his critique of current U.S. economic policy. As he’s stated: “[The] GDP [is] below zero, horrible labor participation rate, and our real unemployment is anywhere from 18% to 20%. Don’t believe the 5.6%. Don’t believe it. That’s right, a lot of people up there can’t get jobs.” However, tying his anti-immigration policy to the economy, he blusters: “They [white workers] can’t get jobs because there are no jobs. Because China has our jobs. And Mexico has our jobs.”
As a true mouthpiece for the traditional Republican Party, Trump has proposed a conventional conservative tax policy that favors the rich, modestly helps the very poor (many of whom are white) and screws the middle-classes. In this way, he continues a quarter-century of economic realignment that has seen the tax burden shift from corporations to ordinary wage earners.
Trump insists his tax plan would spur economic growth to 6 percent a year — a level not seen in more than a decade. The plan is grounded in a simplified tax schedule with only four brackets: (i) poor slobs (incomes up to $30,000 at 1% taxes); (ii) those getting by ($30,000 to $100,000 at 5%); (iii) the achievers ($100,000 to $1 million pay 10%); and (iv) the 1 percenters ($1 million and above pay 15%).
However, the real plan is hidden in the fine print that effectively shifts the overall tax burden. Trump calls for: (i) a corporate tax rate of zero (except for businesses that outsource jobs, which would have a 20% tax); (ii) a cut in capital gains tax rate; (iii) repeal the estate tax; and (iv) impose an import tax on “every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35% tax.”
If Trump is elected, hold onto your wallet as the great squeeze on wages will continue to wreck the lives of ordinary Americans.
Policy #3: Reassert U.S. Hegemony
For Trump, America’s “greatness” is tied to reasserting it’s post-WW-II economic and military hegemony. It is a vision based on a pre-globalized trading system and one in which good-old U.S.-Soviet Cold War hostilities were restrained by mutually-shared nuclear destruction. The fact that that world order is over does not get in the way of his – or the other Republican candidates – rhetoric.
In place of a serious and informed assessment of the new global – and financially driven – marketplace, candidate hawks like Trump (and Mrs. Clinton) offer a never-ending stream of huffing-&-puffing. Like the other Republican presidential candidates, he has declared his first foreign-policy act would be to break the multinational Iran nuclear deal. He has argued, “They [Iranians] are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making on nuclear. We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us.”
More long term, Trump has called for a reinvigorated U.S. military, one that would make old-style hawks like Dick Chaney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz blush. His first campaign would be to put down the ISIS/Islamic State’s insurgency. “I will find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur. I will find the right guy. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work,” he proclaimed.
A key to his long-term vision of renewed military prowess would involve rebuilding the nation’s nuclear force: “And we as a country are getting weaker. Even our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work. It came out recently: They have equipment that’s 30 years old. They don’t even know if it works.”
The reassertion of military muscle would provide the leverage to strengthen the nation’s foreign trade position. “We don’t have [trade] victories anymore,” Trump lamented. “When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say China, in a trade deal? I beat China all the time. All the time. When did we beat Japan at anything? They send their cars over by the millions. And what do we do? When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn’t exist folks; they beat us all the time.”
With Trump as president, get ready for a new era of bitter boots-on-the-ground warfare and — likely illegal — trade wars.
Policy #4: Rebuild America
In some ways, Trump has advocated a more “liberal” approach toward U.S. domestic policies than the other Republican candidates. None seems to have taken as strong a stand as with regard to the nation’s aging infrastructure or health care. However, with other policies he remains comfortably in the regressive mainstream.
“We have to rebuild our infrastructure: our bridges, our roadways, our airports,” he insisted. “You come into LaGuardia Airport, it’s like we’re in a third-world country.” Candidate Ego called for this campaign to be done by the private sector: “Rebuild the country’s infrastructure; nobody can do that like me, believe me. … It will be done on time, on budget, way below costs, way below what anyone ever thought. I look at these roads being built all over the country and I say, ‘I could build these things for one third.’” There’s lots of money for private contractors to make, but Trump has yet to detail how this needed effort would be paid for.
With regard to national health care, Trump often sounds like the progressive Sanders. To the consternation of his fellow Republican candidates, he has outflanked them and Pres. Obama by calling for a form of the single-payer system: “As far as single payer, it works in Canada,” he said in the first debate. “It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.” He also supports Social Security.
He is strongly opposed to the Common Core education standard, proclaiming: “Common Core is a disaster. [Jeb] Bush is totally in favor of Common Core. I don’t see how he can possibly get the nomination. He’s weak on immigration, he’s in favor of Common Core — how the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can’t do it. We have to end [it]. Education has to be local.” He does not believe in climate change and – as part of his anti-immigration policy – would require U.S. businesses to hire “American workers first.”
Policy #5: Reestablish Moral Order
For most Republicans, the bedrock for making America great again is to reestablish a strong, traditional Christian moral order. This outlook undergirds all the Republican candidates, but it is one not fully shared by Trump.
Over the years, he has artfully changed his position on abortion. Once upon a time he was “very pro-choice” and wouldn’t ban any abortions as president, including “partial birth” abortions. Most recently, Trump has become “pro-life” and opposed to all abortions, except for rape, incest or health. He differentiates himself from many other Republican zealots by supporting Planned Parenthood’s medical (i.e., non-abortion) services.
One gay marriage, he has taken a somewhat more nuanced stand then the other candidates. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he insisted it was a “dead issue.” “Some people have hopes of passing amendments, but it’s not going to happen,” he said. “Congress can’t pass simple things, let alone that. So anybody that’s making that an issue is doing it for political reasons. The Supreme Court ruled on it.”
Often forgotten, in 2012, Trump, owner of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants, changed the organizations’ official rules so that a 23 year-old contestant, Jenna Talackova, could compete in the Miss Universe Canada contest. Talackova, who’d lived as a female since the age of four and had undergone sex reassignment in 2008, was initially disqualified from the contest because she was born a male.
Trump is a strong believer in the misreading of the Second Amendment’s ostensible “right” for citizens to bear arms. In the wake of the recent mass killings at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, he argued that if teachers were fully armed the campus “would have been a hell of a lot better off.” He called for any follow-up legislation be limited to addressing mental health issues of potential shooters.
Maybe Trump’s waffling on social and moral issues is due to being a New York, a unforgiveable sin in the eyes of many Christian conservatives.
Policy #6: Rebrand America & the Presidency
Donald Trump is first and foremost a showman and one of his first efforts if elected president would be to rebrand the U.S. and the nation’s highest elected office.
The first effort of his rebranding campaign may well be a remaking of the old-fashion, fuddy-duddy White House. Surely, it’s time for a glitzy makeover. Pictures of Washington, Lincoln and others old times will have to put in storage as wall-size portraits of “the Donald” are slapped on every available space. Making the old residency a 21st century landmark of renewed Viagra-era global potency, Trump could outfit it as an upscale nightclub having all the charm and intimacy of one of his hotel lobbies.
In this rebranding effort, nothing needs to be more refashioned than the traditional presidential address to the public and media briefing. Once-upon-a-time, FDR offered quaint fireside chats to reassure the nation traumatized by economic crisis and a world war and, more recently, the press briefings held by subsequent presidents need to be reconceived. In true egomaniacal style, Trump will use his TV game show, “The Apprentice,” as the model for presidential engagement.
And if he’s into remaking the White House and presidential images, how about rebranding U.S. money? The term “In God We Trust” was affixed to U.S. coins during the Civil War and onto the nation’s paper money during the anticommunist Cold War. So, how about in a national effort to make America great again, “In God We Trust” is replace by “In Trump We Trust,” a sure sign of a national dementia.
Sadly, and often overlooked, most of Donald Trump’s proposed policies to make America great again are shared by his fellow Republican presidential candidates. Even sadder, they are embraced by all-too-many Americans.